In this essay, I we
be discussing the importance criminology has on the criminal justice system,
criminology involves conducting research and studying social and physical
factors of why people commit crimes and end up in our prisons. criminologists work
is important as their work aids in developing a society that is less prone to
acts of criminality and deviance, protecting society. My primary focus will be
on why we have prisons, looking at the type of people we find in them, what may
cause them to end up there. Following up with how criminologists respond to the
obvious problems. I will be supporting my answer by providing statistics and
presenting criminological theories throughout.


As of December 2017,
statics show that our UK prisons are currently holding 85,577 prisoners (“Prison population figures: 2017 – GOV.UK”, 2017)
obviously this rate is ever changing, but as we reflect this amount against the
year 1973 statistics, at 35,700 this amount is substantially less. Criminology
is important as it allows the analysis of the prisons and the criminals within
them, enabling issues to be found.


the UK prisons, there are many issues surrounding equality, primarily with the
black ethnic community. Black African Caribbean’s account for just 12% of the prison
population were as white ethnicity accumulates to a high percentage of 73% (House of Commons Library, 2017). Criminology is specifically
important in this area as they look into social exclusion and how this
contributes to criminality. Bhui (2009) reported that there is a division
within prisons that implements social exclusion and deprivation of the minority
of black criminals. Within prisons power is given to those in charge, prison guard etc. These powers are often
abused leading to abuse in forms of racism, most often dehumanising those who
are different to the ethnic minority this is one form of racism which Kimmit
Edgar (2007) has identified. Research from critical criminologists Wilson &
Moore (2003) have identified that there is a substantial occurrence of direct
racism within our prisons, direct racism in forms of violence is an ever-growing
presence against black male inmates specifically (Scott & Codd, 2010).

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This behavior
towards a minority is also linked to the reason many of them end up within the
prisons. There is still a high presence of racism within society, members of
the black community are constantly put under the strains of societies negative perception
of them. In 1938 Robert K. Merton
created the criminological strain theory, this theory focuses on delinquency of
the lower class, including the black community. Merton (1938) theory can be
used to argue that through the mistreating black people suffer within society
this manner lessens their feel of personal values, these negative emotions that
are created influences strains upon the person which suggests the reasoning’s
for a crime to be committed. The idea that if you perform how people already
believe you do as a form of conformity to their beliefs. Although this theory
is declining in popularity with many criminologists as it is unable to explain
why those who are put through the same strains don’t lead to preforming crimes (Newburn, 2017).


Criminologists also analyse the social backgrounds and
childhood experiences of criminals this is important as suggesting reasons why
crimes may be committed allows crime prediction and prevention especially in
the future. After thorough research criminologists are also able to predict
patterns in family backgrounds linking to crime. Social background and
childhood experiences have impacted a high majority of prisoners and are both
acknowledged as having an involvement with criminal activity. Evidence shows
that criminal activity is influenced by a history of social exclusion, poverty,
growing up within care and if a member of their family is or has been in prison (“Prisoners’ childhood and family backgrounds”,
2012). In 2012 a sample was taken of 3,849 prisoners to analyse this, criminologists
have a growing interest regarding the relationship between offenders and their childhood
and family relationships. The results of the samples found that 24% of the prisoners
had been in care at some point of this childhood, 29% were abused by family member/carer,
41% observed violence at home
and 31% had a family member that had been in prison. In 2006,
90,000 children had a parent who was in prison (“Prisoners’ childhood and
family backgrounds”, 2012). Evidently this shows this is an aspect
of the social learning theory and implies that is a child has grown up around criminal
activity they are more likely to commit crimes themselves. Criminology is
important as criminologists are able to link these statistics to theories so
there is a better understanding for example Albert
Bandura (1977) social learning theory and Ivan Pavlov (1902) behavioral
learning theory.


Another aspect of the role
in which criminologists have is to carry out research based on a criminal’s educational
background to see how those aspects have contributed towards criminal behavior.
Statistics have also shown that a poor education has resulted in criminal
activity, 59% of offenders were regularly truant from school, 63% were either suspended
or temporarily excluded and 42% were expelled. Through research criminologists
have found that a successful school experience and education prevents crime in specific
areas, for example with a good standard of educational qualification a legal
and authentic working environment is more likely for the future. Raphael
& Winter-Ebmer (1999) research shows that crime is associated with the
unemployment rates. Having good grades in school increases likelihood
of employment with good pay. Without good qualifications finding a job is substantially
harder and the pay isn’t the best. Although schooling increases the opportunity
of employment averting crime, Lochner (2004) argues that schools
influence violent crime on youths based on the environment which they are all
in. however he also goes on to say that schools socialize students to be better
citizens, encouraging them to treat the rest of society better and understand
how actions may result in punishment. When not at school it is easy for a child
to become bored, this leading to criminal activities to be performed. In this
sense lochner (2004) research shows that school reduces property crime
primarily as they are within a premise for a duration of the day, instead of
being out and causing disruption to the community. And less likely to become
within contact of any illegal substances.


Studies have been developed
by criminologists regarding substance use such as drugs and alcohol. Both are strong
issues within our criminal justice system, collectively 18% of criminals within
the UK prisons arrived with alcohol problems and 14% with drug problems. It is acknowledged that alcohol affects
the brains thought process and decision making which can lead to criminal behavior.
Although the consumption and possession of alcohol is completely legal,
evidence shows that those under the influence of alcohol have been associated
with a majority of violent offences such as stabbing,
murders, and manslaughters along with half of domestic assaults (“Prisoners’ childhood and family backgrounds”,
2012). However White & Hansell (1998) suggests
the idea that is it aggressive behavior that leads to alcohol use instead of
the other way around. In partial agreement to this, McMurran & Holin (1989)
propose that there is a ‘functional relationship’ between alcohol and crime,
suggesting that alcohol is not only a precursor for criminality but also a consequence
of it (Newburn, 2017).


It is an illegal offence to export, import, possess, supply
and produce drugs however there is theories to suggest that the consumption of
drugs link to other criminal offences (Bennett &
Holloway, 2010). However, there is other offences which can be linked to
drugs as they are evidently known to have a contribution towards them being committed.
Criminologist have multiple theories as to how drugs link to crime, obviously
the same as alcohol, drugs have psychological effects on the consumer, altering
their perceptions and judgement leading them to make irrational decisions which
may be criminal. Another theory is ‘economic necessity’ (Bennett
& Holloway, 2010), this suggests that those who are unable to control their
consumption of a drug and is unable to fund doing so are linked to burglaries,
shoplifting and robbery as a way of the offender financing their drug (newborn 2017).


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